3.01.2008

this is not liberal or conservative: this is canadian

The change to the film tax credit is not strictly a liberal vs. conservative issue. Or at least it shouldn't be. No true conservative would support this kind of government interference in artistic and cultural content, nor a rescinding of tax breaks, something conservatives are supposed to love. But then, the Religious Right's agenda has never been conservative. It's radical and reactionary. They're not conserving anything.

As you can imagine, I'm no fan of Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente, but when you're right, you're right. On this issue, she is. In an expanded column today, she writes:
If Charles McVety has his way, Canadian culture is about to get a lot more boring. Mr. McVety, a well-known evangelical crusader, is taking credit for the fine print in a sneaky new bill that would allow government censors to pull financial aid for any film or television show they deem offensive – even if government agencies have already invested in them. From now on, every federally funded project will be vetted by bureaucrats from the Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office and the Department of Justice, who will ensure that we are protected from disgusting displays of sin and filth and other things not in the public interest.

This is rotten news. We may just have to say goodbye to sex, violence, and Viggo Mortensen cavorting with Russian gangsters in the nude. Instead, we'll have to settle for "films that Canadians can sit down and watch with their families in living rooms across this great country," as Conservative MP Dave Batters put it. David Cronenberg will be reduced to shooting remakes of Anne of Green Gables. Juno will be recast as the heartwarming tale of a plucky girl who realizes that if she has premarital sex with her boyfriend, she'll go to Hell. As for Young People Fucking, a new movie coming soon, forget about it. It will have to be reshot as Young People Starting an Abstinence Club.

"We're thankful that somebody's finally listening," says Mr. McVety, who is president of the Canada Family Action Coalition. "It's fitting with conservative values, and I think that's why Canadians voted for a Conservative government."

Personally, I'm not so sure. I think they voted for a Conservative government to get rid of the Liberals. As for the Conservatives, this is the very last thing they need – proof that the religious wing nuts are back in force and pulling the strings. Guess what! There's a hidden agenda after all! And it appears to be driven by people who think homosexuals are wicked and the Rapture is at hand. Speaking of hidden agendas, Mr. McVety's Canada Family Action Coalition website has a section called Unmasking the Gay Agenda, which informs us that "the homosexual lobby's primary objective is to … establish a sexually androgynous society wherein natural distinctions between male and female are dissolved."

Stephen Harper has managed to keep these folks locked up in a backroom since the same-sex marriage debate, because they frighten off mainstream voters. But someone let them out. What's worse, they managed to get this legislation all but passed before the public knew a thing about it.

Which reminds me. Why not? Where were all the opposition parties when Bill C-10 sailed through the House of Commons and two readings of the Senate? Aren't they paid to read the fine print?

There were some really good letters in the G&M, too. That's another way you can help: write letters to your local paper. A sample from today.
In our documentary Saving Luna, which just won an indie award from the Canadian Film and Television Production Association, a character accuses the government of "treating people like morons." As we read it, the effort to deny tax credits to films "determined to be contrary to public policy" could be used to stifle even works, like ours, that contain content critical of the government.

One of many ugly parts of these rules is that they would force filmmakers like ourselves, working on tiny budgets, to exercise self-censorship of far milder material in order to feel secure about getting anything done. Without tax credits, our film would not have been completed.

Art is just like science: You have to provide the arena for a thousand failures, mediocrities and near misses in order to find one genius. That is what the tax credit system does for Canadian cinematic art and, with amazing regularity, geniuses appear. (Not us, alas, but check out the Oscar nominations.) That effort would be wrecked if, in Soviet style, the tax credit system were used as an agent for the control of ideas.

Suzanne Chisholm and Michael Parfit
Mountainside Films
Sidney, BC

*

By all accounts, Stephen Harper has done an excellent job of controlling (read: silencing) those on the evangelical/right-wing end of his party. He knows that, if he hopes to form a majority government, he must banish from memory those election charges of a "hidden agenda." But the problem with aligning yourself so closely with evangelicals is that it is not in their nature to fly under the radar. So thank God for Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, who says loudly that he and Conservative backbenchers carry great influence behind the scenes in imposing Christian morality onto the nation (Evangelist Takes Credit For Film Crackdown - front page, Feb. 29).

How frustrating for Mr. Harper to see there are elements of his party he cannot control and that will keep him from power.

Zeba Crook
Religious Studies, Carleton University
Ottawa, ON

*

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and officials in the Prime Minister's Office who had discussions with Charles McVety would do well to concern themselves with the apparent promotion of hatred and intolerance suggested by Mr. McVety and not worry about ensuring that the government does not fund any art that may be interpreted to promote homosexuality, which is legal in Canada. If Mr. McVety does not like Canada's laws, he's free to move to more intolerant countries.

Marc Côté
Publisher, Cormorant Books
Toronto, ON

*

Offensive films? I'll tell you what's offensive - politicians who try to control the trickle of support to original artists whose work doesn't flatter the tastes of special groups. That's worse than offensive; that's un-Canadian. I know something about Canadian films: They're smart, original and inclusive. We're a big country. We can handle different visions up on our cinema screens.

Mary Malone
Co-chair, London Canadian Film Festival
London, ON

*

Stop embarrassing Christians, Mr. McVety.

Suzanne McCabe
Oakville, ON

I skipped the letter comparing the Harper government to the Taliban. I think it's best to avoid hyperbole and focus on reality. The comparison is also an unintentional insult to people who have been repressed by Taliban-like governments. By any global scale, Canada is not living under a Taliban.

But if we're not careful, we might be living under a United States.

People who counsel victims of domestic violence say that the first time a woman* is hit by her partner, the more fuss she makes over it, the less likely it is to become a pattern. Read him the riot act, make him sleep on the couch, don't speak to him for two days - make a huge big deal over it, even if it's "just one slap". When things settle down, have a serious talk. Put him on notice that you won't live like that, and it might be just one incident, and never happen again.

Let's not let ourselves get slapped around by these bullies.



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* I'm using the female pronoun because women are by the far the most common victims of partner abuse. Men are also victims of domestic violence, usually (although not always) at the hands of male partners.

6 comments:

West End Bob said...

Let's not let ourselves get slapped around by these bullies.

Great line, L-Girl!

Gazetteer said...

L-Girl

Perhaps a 'Letters-To-The-Editor' non-collective collective is in order?

.

Amy said...

This issue sounds very much like what happened in the US back in the 90s with the National Endowment for the Arts when Congress amended the funding statute to restrict the types of projects which could get support from the NEA. That law was challenged on First Amendment grounds, but the Supreme Court upheld the law, I am sad to say. It is sad to see Canada going down this road as well.

L-girl said...

It is sad to see Canada going down this road as well.

Not yet, my friend. Not yet.

You can't imagine the outcry over this here.

First, the film industry is very important to the Canadian economy. That's recognized in a way that the arts' role in the economy is not in the US. (Having worked in the arts industry at the time big Reagan-era budget cuts were going on, I really see the difference.)

Second, Canadians are extremely sensitive to keeping down the Christian Right influence here. Canada is a much more secular country than the US and most Canadians like it that way. The US is used as the big, scary example of what can happen. "Don't let that happen here!" is like a rallying cry.

Third, if any government entity tries to restrict film content based on gay themes, it will never stand up in court. Sexual orientation is completely protected under the Charter.

And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Harper has sworn up, down and backwards that he is not overly influenced by the religious right... but most people don't believe him. Canadians have been waiting for the "secret agenda" to be exposed. Many of us have feared it would not be exposed until when/if he had a majority govt - then we'd all be screwed.

This lobbying evangelist couldn't keep his trap shut - had to brag about his big score. In doing so, he may have cost the Conservatives the next election.

Amy said...

Glad to hear that. I was outraged by what happened with the NEA after the Mapplethorpe exhibit, and I certainly hope those involved in the arts in Canada fare better.

L-girl said...

I think this could be a watershed moment in rallying against the Harper govt.

There's also a scandal in the works. More on that soon.